VIC­TIM’S MUM ON 15 YEARS OF HELL I still stupidly hope my girl will walk in shout­ing, Mummy I’m home

Sunday Mirror - - SAIRAKHAN -

her Dar­ren Day posters and smelling her on the sheets. “I kept think­ing she’d be home any day,” she says. But in March 2006, po­lice told a stunned Karen and Bob, 57, they be­lieved Char­lene was dead. In May 2007, Jor­da­nian ke­bab shop owner Iyad Al­bat­tikhi stood trial for her mur­der along­side Ira­nian Mo­hammed Reveshi, who was ac­cused of help­ing dis­pose of Char­lene’s body. But the jury failed to reach a ver­dict. And a re­trial was dropped the next year when po­lice ev­i­dence was found to be built on hearsay and a tran­script of lowqual­ity record­ings from bugs in a sus­pect’s car and flat. Both men later got around £250,000 each in com­pen­sa­tion.

The worst mo­ment for Karen was when the court was told her daugh­ter had been butchered and served to ke­bab shop cus­tomers.

“I ran out and threw up in the toi­let” she says.

But there was more agony to come. The court had heard al­le­ga­tions that Char­lene swapped sex for bags of chips after be­ing groomed by a gang of mainly Asian men.

She’d made 13 walk-in vis­its to a sex health clinic in the two years be­fore she van­ished.

Karen says: “I didn’t recog­nise this girl. Where was my baby who used to hold her mummy’s hand?

“I had tried my best. I’d signed up on a par­ent­ing course and chal­lenged Char­lene when she turned up with a fiver here or there. But she stopped talk­ing to me.”

After the trial col­lapsed, Bob turned to drink. In one row Karen at­tacked him with a potato knife. But they re­mained to­gether, united in grief.

Des­per­ate for clo­sure, Karen or­gan­ised a memo­rial ser­vice for Char­lene in Septem­ber 2008.

A few months later an In­de­pen­dent Po­lice Com­plaints Com­mis­sion in­quiry found the Lan­cashire Po­lice in­ves­ti­ga­tion had been “han­dled un­pro­fes­sion­ally”. Two of­fi­cers were dis­ci­plined. One was later cleared. Karen says: “It felt every­thing was against us. Madeleine McCann was in the pa­pers. I felt sorry for her fam­ily, but also re­sent­ful. Her par­ents were ed­u­cated, in­flu­en­tial – every­thing I wasn’t. Char­lene was a way­ward teen, but that doesn’t mean she didn’t mat­ter. Bob was even beaten up by lo­cals who thought we were in­volved.”

In 2012, Karen set up a web­site called Jus­tice for Char­lene. Two years later po­lice of­fered a £100,000 re­ward for in­for­ma­tion to solve the case.

Mean­while, Karen has writ­ten a book on the search and she and Bob are still to­gether, search­ing for an­swers. He says: “I loved Karen so much, but I felt guilty when we got mar­ried as I knew there was a third per­son in­side me.” Bob stopped cross dress­ing after Char­lene van­ished but has now re­turned to it. “I can’t help it. The fe­male side of me is strong.” Char­lene’s sib­lings now have chil­dren and the cou­ple rel­ish be­ing grand­par­ents. “They’ve helped us move on a lit­tle,” says Karen. “But I still live in hope.”

Det Chief Insp Richard McCutcheon of Lan­cashire Po­lice said: “We are com­mit­ted to find­ing Char­lene and her killer. We con­tinue to fo­cus on child sex ex­ploita­tion.”

A po­lice spokesman added that a man, 53, ar­rested in Au­gust 2017 on sus­pi­cion of Char­lene’s mur­der but, re­leased pend­ing fur­ther en­quiries still re­mains un­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

Po­lice thought her dad might have killed her be­cause she’d caught him cross-dress­ing MUM KAREN ON HUS­BAND’S SHOCK TRANS­GEN­DER SE­CRET

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